6 Steps to Finding a career that makes you happy
You’re about to choose a career but you’re not sure which direction to take. Or you've been in a job for a couple of years, but you’re bored, even unhappy.
Some people will want their career to bring them to a certain status, or to earn a high income. Others will want their career to be fulfilling and to bring purpose and meaning to their life. I’ll be honest, I’m part of that second category! If that sounds like you, these six steps to finding a career that makes you happy are for you.
I used to be unhappy in my job. One day I understood why: I was doing things that weren’t aligned to my values. I wasn’t working to my strengths. I couldn’t see myself doing this job for the rest of my working life. I decided to step away and to become a personal development & career coach. Now that I have a happy career, I want to help others find theirs.
I'll be taking you through six steps to help you find a career that will make you happy. Every week, I will share a new blog to explain each step and provide you with a simple exercise to do.
I’ll be honest – it’s not an easy ride, it might take time, but it’s definitely worth it!
Step 1: find your Ikigai - aka ‘Your reason to get out of bed’
On the Okinawa island, in Japan, people seem to be living longer than average. One of the contributing factors is that they focus on finding their Ikigai, i.e. their 'reason for being'. Ikigai combines the joy from doing something, a sense of purpose and a feeling of well-being. It’s not linked to your status, or the money you earn. It is about having an impact. Everyone’s Ikigai is unique: it’s based on your values, your beliefs and your personality.
How do you go about finding your Ikigai? The first step is to fill in your own map:
What do you love doing? What are the activities that bring you joy?
What are you good at? What are your strengths?
What does the world need? Is there an issue that is important for you?
What can you be paid for? Is there a job you can do, or a market for your product or services?
Finding your Ikigai is a journey which can take time. Be patient and be open to ideas and possibilities.
Step 2: visualise the future you want
When thinking about your future career, you need to fit it into the bigger picture of your life. It is important to figure out the kind of lifestyle you want in the future. For that purpose, visualisations are a powerful tool. But what is it?
Visualising is about creating a mental image of what you’d like to achieve in the future. Studies show that our brain doesn’t know the difference between imagining something and doing it. By tricking the brain, we can condition our mind and body to reach the outcome we want.
Athletes use visualisation to improve their performance. Surgeons use it to prepare for complex operations. Musicians use it to rehearse before the big day. It’s proven that visualisation improves performance, reduces stress levels and increases accuracy.
Why not use it to plan our future? Here’s a very short guided meditation that you can do to give it a go:
Close your eyes, sit comfortably, take a few deep breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Relax your body.
Start creating a mental image of the future lifestyle that you want: what do you see? where are you? who are you with? what do you do? what do you hear? what do you smell?
When you’re ready, open your eyes, and write down what you saw.
Step 3: know what your values are
What drives us is what made us behave, communicate, decide the way we do. But we usually don’t know our drivers: they’re hidden well below the surface and work in our unconscious.
Picture an iceberg: the tip is what we do and what we say. Below the surface, there is a massive block made of our personality traits, values, motivations, beliefs and experiences. And when we don’t respect what’s below sea level, we are just unhappy.
Take some time to answer these questions:
Do you know what your values are?
Do you have an understanding of your personality traits?
Do you know what motivates you at work?
Step 4: know what your strengths are
Think about what you do at work day in day out: do you love doing it? Do you leave energised at the end of the day?
There are things that you can do pretty well: your skills. And there are activities that you just love doing, that energise you and make you lose track of time: these are your strengths.
Take a moment to think about this:
Do you know what your strengths are?
What is it that you hate doing, that drains your energy?
Is there something that you can change in your job or do you need to change careers to play to your strengths?
Step 5: identify your blockers and smash them
Remember the iceberg from step 3? Something else is hidden well below the surface: our self-limiting beliefs and fears. They block us in our progress. They stop us from achieving what we truly want to do.
Can you hear a little voice inside your head? It's your inner critic saying that you’re too old/young/inexperienced/unqualified to do something.
Be curious and start noticing what that voice has to say. Then challenge it so that you turn your self-limiting beliefs into empowering mantras.
What is your ‘inner critic’ telling you?
Where does it come from?
Is it really true?
Step 6: set your goals and move forward
The previous steps are all about looking inward into what drives us and what stops us. Now let’s move forward! Do you know how to set your goals so that you will actually achieve them?
Goal setting is more than just following a clever acronym and writing it down on a piece of paper. There’s a whole ecosystem around it that you need to think about. There’s also the motivation and the commitment to achieve it.
Ask yourself these in relation to your career goal:
What have you done and not done so far towards that goal?
What are all the options that could help you achieve your goal?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to achieve this goal?
I’ve created an online programme packed with insights and great exercises to help you find a career that makes you happy.